Strategy

Write Around

Silent Conversation

UDL 4.1

Write Around is a writing fluency and reflection activity where students take turns responding to an open-ended question in a small group setting, with each member elaborating on the previous responses. First, small groups are formed (e.g., 3-4 students), and then the teacher poses the question for groups to respond to. Next, the first student in each group is given 30 seconds to write a response. After responding, the paper gets passed to the next group member who is given 30 seconds to read the response, plus an additional 30 seconds to add, clarify, or expand any information as they respond. This process repeats until each student in the group has contributed. Lastly, groups have several minutes to verbally continue their discussions, before participating in a whole-class share.

Implementation Tips

Choosing Questions
Pre-plan questions that are open-ended or multifaceted so students can respond in a meaningful way (e.g., Which character was most meaningful to you and why?, What do you think is the most important real-world issue?). Avoid questions that have a single answer.
Organizing Groups
Organize student groups by student writing fluency so that writing abilities are consistent within each group. Make sure each group has enough room to sit in a small circle to support the “passing” of the paper during the Write Around (e.g., 4-corners of the rug and one group in the middle, each group at a table).
Graphic Organizers
Provide a graphic organizer for groups to use to record their Write Around responses. Click [[ http://freeology.com/graphicorgs/blank-4-column-notes-form/ | here ]] to download a sample for your classroom.
Clarifying Expectations
Clarify expectations of a Write Around by explaining the essential components, such as how much time is allotted for each student to create a response, which consistent direction the papers will be passed, and the different ways students can respond to one another (e.g., students can explain their reaction, write a comment, ask questions, share connections, agree or disagree, or raise a new idea).
Time Adjustments
Adjust how much time students are provided to respond during a Write Around to support the amount of text each consecutive writer needs to read. Set time caps for all groups to follow.
Sample Time Adjustments:
* Student One: 30 seconds to respond
* Student Two: 1 minute to read and respond
* Student Three: 1.5 minutes to read and respond
* Student Four: 2 minutes to read and respond
Group Share
Guide each group to share out one highlight or thread of their discussion (e.g., highlighting an idea they spent time on, one that sparked a lively debate, or something they argued or laughed about). After, ask the whole class to reflect on how the Write Around strategy made their learning experience different.
Changing Up How Students Respond
Alternate how students respond during a Write Around by incorporating technology. Students can contribute their responses by typing into a word processor sheet or a Google document instead of passing a paper.

Examples

Formative Assessment
After reading [[ https://images.booksense.com/images/509/000/9780152000509.jpg | Dandelion ]] by Eve Bunting, a teacher uses a Write Around to assess student comprehension of Westward Expansion. The teacher hands one member of each group a recording sheet, indicating that student will be the first to write. The teacher then asks, “Can you describe an adventure the Bolton family experienced in the West?”. Students are signaled to begin writing (e.g., “Ready, Get Set, Write!”) and the timer begins. When time is up, students pass the paper to the right and the same cue is used to signal new students to write. After everyone has contributed a response, the teacher uses the group share to determine student connections with the text.
Conflict Resolution
Two students facing a conflict use a Write Around to express their feelings and concerns. The teacher explains that each student will have three uninterrupted opportunities to express themselves through writing during this “silent conversation.” The teacher uses a timer to manage how much time each student receives while writing their responses, reactions, and questions. After the students complete the Write Around, they openly reflect on their realizations using a calm and relaxed tone to match the respectful atmosphere of the Write Around process (e.g., “I’m sorry I said I didn’t want to be your friend anymore. I do, but I want to be allowed to play with other people too.”).
Community Building Activity
A teacher uses a Write Around to brainstorm classroom rules in order to incorporate student input. While students are in small groups, the teacher asks, “What rules are essential to creating a supportive, learning environment in our classroom?” Students in each group take turns sharing ideas and elaborating on the ideas of others through each “passing” round. After all students have the opportunity to contribute their thinking, each group verbally debriefs their “conversation string.” Lastly, the whole class shares their insights to collaboratively build a class contract, which students then sign.

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